The Successful Project Team: Project Manager (Scott Hubbard)

Uploaded by NASAappel on 09.12.2011

Many of you, but perhaps not all of you know
that executing these large complex programs
is an unusual mixture of science and engineering
and politics and budget and interpersonal communication and all sorts of things.
A decade ago, I had an opportunity to completely restructure the Mars program
so the mission queue that you’ve seen for the last ten years
was created in the chaos that came out of the loss of the two Mars ‘98 missions.
After years of arm twisting by some of my colleagues,
who said how often is it that a decade’s worth of mission
actually survives the Washington process,
you must write this down.
So I finally wrote it down, this will be out in January.
It’s called, “Exploring Mars: Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery,”
forword by my buddy, Bill Nye the Science Guy.
I think the content of this because I go into the fallout from “faster, better, cheaper,”
the interaction of personalities, a lot of the back stories.
This is a personal story, it is not a textbook.
A lot of what it takes and what these gentlemen like Paul Hertz and what Orlando Figueroa
and, until very recently, Steve Saunders
and others have to deal with in the Washington environment.
So thank you for your indulgence.
Now let me talk about the project manager
and the management process in the context of a mission
that I had the opportunity to manage almost 15 years ago.
I was really delighted to see the discussion of WIRE.
When I served on the Columbia accident investigation board,
I was the only NASA person there,
which is an unusual experience in it of itself,
we discovered that the Navy was absolutely insistent
that every person went through that Naval Academy,
every person that signed up for the submarine core
study the Thresher accident and understand not only the technical cause,
but the organizational cause.
When we did the Columbia review and published our findings,
it was equal weight technical and management issues
and our summary conclusion after looking at this was that NASA does not generally do a good job
of looking at its failures as well as its successes.
Often, as everybody knows, you learn more from your failures than your successes.
So in this case, I have a success to report.
I was the NASA manager of this mission for its proposal stage up through 1998,
when it was well into its data collection mission.
It was created to understand the distribution of elements, the composition of the moon,
its resources, and then of course that leads us to understanding the origin and evolution of the moon.
It was right in the cross hairs of Dan Goldin’s faster, better, cheaper initiative
and so at this point, he was saying things to us NASA people,
like you’re all just a bunch of dumb bureaucrats,
write checks and stay out of the way.
Of course, we all saluted, but occasionally I would violate that, but I didn’t tell Dan.
You have to use your judgment,
you have to look at the case that is front of you
and the situation you are facing and decide what is the proper balance
of insight and oversight,
what’s the right way to deal with your particular configuration.
We were the first, Lunar Prospector was the very first competitively selected Discovery mission.
Discovery was created as way of doing competitively PI-led small planetary mission.
Of course it drew on a lot of the history of the Explorer program,
but we were feeling our way and as you will see,
the management construct that we came up with was somewhat unusual,
but it was a way of adapting to the situation at hand.
We also had a goal and this was the beginnings of major efforts
that we now have in education and public outreach for the planetary program.
We had to invent a number of things on the fly.
So this mission had six experiments,
five instruments; gamma ray spectrometer, neutron spectrometer,
electron reflectometer, a magnetometer, and alpha proton X-Ray and radio experiment.
The mission was, as you will see shortly, a lunar orbiter.
It was built around the bus that was designed for the Iridium communications satellite,
spin stabilized like the Pioneers that were done for so many years at Ames
and everything that we did, we hoped a model of simplicity.
The total cost, 63 million dollars,
which I think is still the record for planetary missions.
You would have to inflate that to today’s dollars, but it is still well below,
but typically it takes to do that type of investigation.
The five instruments, which largely came from Los Alamos, the National Lab,
as well as UC Berkley, about three and half million.
The total cost of the spacecraft and all the analysis, 22 million.
The launch vehicle was 26 million.
Now someone years ago started the rumor that this mission got a free launch, not true.
That was incorporated into the price of the mission and so forth.
One thing that I will point out to and come back to was the award fee because, again,
we were feeling our way as to how NASA would deal with the contractor community
and the PI in this cost-constrained world where
you had the administrator breathing down your neck
telling you faster, better, cheaper.
And of course you had a lot of grizzled, seasoned project managers in the back of the room
mumbling to themselves, you can have any two of the three, but you can’t get all three.
So it was a balancing act.
In addition, we had to put in,
and this was beginnings of this requirements,
a substantial allocation for education and outreach.
We weren’t sure exactly how we were going to do that other than
the Web was emerging as the tool for communication.
From authority to proceed to launch, 22 months.
So this was the faster part and to achieve this required,
as you’ve heard over and over again and will continue to hear, a lot of teamwork,
a lot of communication, a lot of clarity of roles and responsibilities.
We did have a six month extended mission at a lower altitude.
We started off at 100 kilometers.
As we got very comfortable with operating that,
it was operated from NASA Ames
where the Pioneers had been controlled,
we were able to move in closer and improve the footprint
and improve the physical resolution of these instruments
particularly those whose resolution was really a function of the altitude.
Launched, January 6th, from CCAFS, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
It took 105 hours to get there.
It went into orbit around the moon initial injection
and then circularized it and so within about five days
we were safely in-orbit around the moon collecting data.
Is everyone in this room, who has been through launch, cruise, orbit,
and search knows those are white knuckle points in your life.
In particular since this was the first use of the Athena II launch vehicle,
I remember walking outside looking up at the moon
and thinking well either tomorrow, launch day, will be a success or the end of your career.
You will have several of these as you go through these missions
because there is always something, sometimes there is multiple things.
There is always something that you lose sleep over and you just put as much attention
as you can because you make your own luck.
If you are diligent and work through everything,
And do all the mitigation you can think of, you will in fact create your own luck.
So we use the simple spin-stabilized spacecraft.
In fact, this is one urban legend that is actually true.
I was walking with Tom Dougherty,
who was the Lockheed project manager,
we made considerable use of that fact NASA Ames and Lockheed Sunnyvale right next to each other.
So a virtual de facto colocation, we were able to not add extra meetings.
We, the NASA management people that control the contract for the PI,
who was an employee of Lockheed Martin would use their review cycle,
sit in their reviews, raise questions if we needed to. There was nothing hidden.
We were walking down looking around the facility there
and Tom was showing us bonding stores
and there was this trapezoidal shaped thing sitting in one of the clean room bonded stores.
I said, Tom what is that?
He said, that is the Iridium bus. I said, you think you can get it?
He said, well I don’t know, maybe so because we’ve already plan to use that architecture.
So in fact, we got the Iridium bus,
but wasn’t used out of bonded stores so we could kick start the whole process
building the spacecraft.
Heritage is a word that gets overused and it’s something that the Tempco teams,
the review team are now starting to look at very skeptically.
In this case, it was more or less true.
The systems and sub-systems had a long series of development.
We had the Mark Five version in most cases.
It was largely single string, but we did all have operational redundancy.
You could have an omni directional antenna back up for the directional antenna.
We found other ways of having graceful degradation,
which is the term I’m sure you’ve heard.
The critical part of all this, though, since it was mostly single stringed
except for some of the transmission, was test.
And you’ve heard test as you fly, fly as you test.
Charlie Hall, the legendary manager of Pioneer 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, Pioneer, Venus
was still alive when I arrived at Ames and I went and said,
What’s your secret sauce, Charlie?
You know, they are legendary for being on cost, on schedule, on budget.
He said, well get good parts, test the hell out of everything.
He firmly believed with selected exemptions you didn’t need to have completely duplicative
or redundant systems,
that single-string would be just find,
provided that you really tested everything that you need to test.
And in our case, even though we were under tremendous pressure
of faster, better, cheaper
and unfortunately the box the Mars ‘98 people were put in
forced them to not be able to have all the testing of the flight hardware and flight software.
Here, we were able to contract the schedule, but we didn’t skip any prudent project steps.
We didn’t let the faster, better, cheaper pressure cause us to do anything
you would not normally do for a regular mission.
The operations, we converted the old Pioneer center into Lunar Prospector at Ames.
We did extensive thinking in advance of what would we do if we had something
that was not in the main stream plan, what was off nominal, something anomalous?
What would be our recovery plan?
The big risk that we did take in the entire mission was the use of the Athena II.
The Athena I, which was on a one-stage version based on the fleet ballistic missile core,
which of course had thousands and thousands successful launches
was a single-state version that a very spectacular failure.
Then Lockheed Martin, they just merged by the way.
We had to do this in the middle of the merger of Lockheed and Martin Marietta,
did pay for successful single flight, single stage flight of the Athena I.
We were the first one to use the Athena II.
So we had review teams crawling up our back of, you know, following us around.
We had reviews morning, noon, and night.
I remember going to Denver,
sitting in a review at the Lockheed Martin plant
responsible for this on December 22nd.
Nevertheless, all the analysis showed that this would work
and I remember asking Charlie Hall,
So what’s better, Charlie, being on the first launch or the second launch of this new vehicle?
He said, Go with the first one.
And I said, Why is that? He said, Because everybody is watching every detail,
you got the A team, you’ve got to management from top down scrutinizing everything.
They will get sloppy on the second launch.
The second launch was IKONOS,
which failed, because of the problem that is called pogoing or the team separated
and a single didn’t unzip the faring and it came back together.
But we made our own luck there by paying attention to the details.
Management challenges were managed to cost,
but maximize mission success on a short schedule.
Had to balance teamwork with the accountability that has already been mentioned.
Ultimately, these our tax payers’ dollars that you have to explain to NASA and to the American people.
You have to develop, we ended up developing some management tools
without sacrificing prudent process and we were the first to accommodate this new role,
at least for planetary missions where the project manager worked for the PI.
And I have to say that, we went through one failure with that at Lockheed Sunnyvale.
I went together with the PI since I was on the NASA side of the fence
to say this isn’t working and they were highly responsive.
We had an instantaneous change that worked out extremely well.
How did we make all this work?
We froze the design, we developed it without deviation,
we tried to minimize the staff, but have a good mix of senior and junior people
so we contained cost, but had the right level of oversight.
And we had a well-defined data return.
This has been mentioned already.
This was the group that worked together on the NASA side.
We had the contract with Lockheed Martin where the PI was in fact an employee
of Lockheed Martin so it was unusual situation with the other groups
that have already been mentioned by Steve Saunders.
So we balanced what is now called insight with oversight, simplified systems, but prudent practice.
The award fee was very important to Lockheed Martin
and I told the senior management if they did it properly,
I would give them the maximum award fee allowed by law, which is 15 percent.
They did and I did.
And it worked out extremely well.
Subcontracts are all fixed price and
Tom Dougherty was just a master
since he knew the organization at moving people on and off so they didn’t charge the contract
any longer than they absolutely had to.
So we exploited the proximity of NASA Ames being next to Sunnyvale,
minimized the team side, but maintained continuity.
We combined these in-depth reviews with normal milestones.
We didn’t have duplicate meetings or reviews
and we used Lockheed Martin’s contractor systems wherever possible.
So in the end, we met our goal of very short development,
we stayed inside the cost box,
first use of the vehicle was successful,
and in the fledgling world of education and outreach,
100 million hits is trivial now,
but at the time ten years ago, it was a big deal.
So those are the ingredients.
I wish you all the success in the world to make them work for your project.